Civics 401

Final Sum Up and Last Pointers on Presentations

 

I hope you have enjoyed my Civics series and that you are more “inspired” in interacting with the governance of Auckland through Auckland Council. As I mentioned in Civics 301: “Yes it can be rewarding as well as down right frustrating but that is life all the way through.” So patience is a virtue when interacting with the Council and trust me you need piles of it (just as the Councillors need piles of it as well noting some of the more fringe elements out there that make massive piles of noise).

This post will be a three-part covering:

  • Presentations to Committees
  • Forming Groups and Blogging
  • Linking back to the Council “Have Your Say Page”

Presentations to Committees

I have covered some of this in the other Civic series posts especially Civics 201. That said here in Civics 401 we will look at why one presents at a Committee and some finer tip points on how to get most out of presenting at a Committee (or Local Board).

To pull off an effective presentation that gets results in a Committee is not that particular easy and does require research prior. As a point of difference presenting to the Reporting Committees and Committees of the Whole is the size of the Committee and what is covered.

Presentations to Reporting Committee are straight forward as those smaller committees focus on specific areas and matters. For example if you want to talk transport infrastructure you can give a presentation to the Infrastructure Committee. If you want to give a presentation on Auckland Transport being a relative pain in the backside the CCO Governance and Monitoring Committee would be a good place to be (as the CCO’s are there as well). Thus personally I would recommend starting with the Reporting Committees before moving onto the larger Committees of the Whole and the Governing Body (the main Council).

Committees of the Whole are the largest of the Committees in Auckland Council before you hit the Governing Body. As the name suggests (Committee of the Whole) all the Councillors, the Independent Maori Statutory Board, and the Mayor are present at these four CoW’s. The CoW’s cover broad matters within their jurisdiction and have the power to set recommendations to policy initiatives before they are sent up to the Governing Body for “ratification.” So when presenting to a Committee of the Whole you are usually seeking the Committee pushing through a recommendation or even resolution to a policy initiative that aligns with what you presented on. That said sometimes as I have seen presentations to CoW’s are used to point out or critique a policy of the Council which the Committee uses to gauge on support or opposition to a said policy.

 

None-the-less whether presenting to a Reporting Committee or Committee of the Whole there are some basic guidelines to follow. From Auckland Council:

How to attend and speak at council meetings

Anyone can attend council meetings open to the public.

If there is any public-excluded business items on the agenda, the public will be requested to leave the meeting at that stage.


Speaking at meetings

If you wish to speak at a public meeting, you need to contact the committee secretary no later than two workings days before the meeting. Contact details for the committee secretary will be in the meeting agenda.

The first 30 minutes of each meeting are dedicated to hearing from the public.

Each person may speak for five minutes. This time may be extended by resolution of the meeting.

Your request to speak must include the subject matter.

There are some things you cannot speak about at meetings:

  • a matter that has already been considered and determined
  • a matter which is going through a separate public hearing process
  • items dealt through a quasi-judicial process
  • issues outside the functions of Auckland Council.

For more information on how meetings are conducted view our standing orders.

Auckland Council standing orders (PDF 822KB)


Attending council hearings

If you have made a submission on a formal consultation, you will have the opportunity to voice your opinions in person at a hearing, if you wish to.

Learn more about attending public hearings.

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Remember FIVE MINUTES so you basically have time to raise two points of interest to the Committee before questions can be asked. That said on rare occasions Deputations can be granted by the Committee Chair and you can be granted usually 15 minutes plus questions for the deputation. I have had one deputation granted to me last year when I presented to the Auckland Development Committee on Manukau.

 

Some basic pointers when presenting to the Committee:

  • Powerpoints are fine and recommended as the Committee Members and members of the public can see what you are referring too. That said remember the following with Powerpoint:
    • Text is bad, white space and pictures/graphics are good
    • At the absolute maximum you should run on the page: 1/3 text, 1/3 white space, 1/3 pictures! Anything more and it is cluttered and too hard to understand. My Manukau presentation is a classic example – although this was set for a full deputation at the Auckland Development Committee
  • One page per minute so no more than five pages for a five-minute presentation. Anything more and too much paper shuffling that slows a presentation down
  • Supplementary material is usually okay. I have used it before in larger presentations where the “booklet” contained more the technical notes for referencing later on after the presentation. Councillors do read and have referred to supplementary material for further information after a presentation as an aid when later forming policy decisions. That said use the supplementary material sparingly especially if you present often (more than 3x a year). As the saying goes too much of something puts people off. In any case this is where blogs kick in (see further down)
  • If you critique something or a policy of the Council or Auckland Transport, then provide an alternative that can be backed up with research. If you do that you sound less like a NIMBY and more like a pro-active citizen that the Committee will pay attention to. It is easy to say NO but hard to provide that alternative
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before the Committee starts to familiarise yourself with the environment and have a couple of chats to other people in the room. If nothing else this proves to be a good ice-breaker
  • Thank the Committee Chair by email (I think Penny might hit me up on that one if I forgot last time :-P) after the presentation is given. I do so as an act of courtesy to the Committee for their time and it is also a good way to keep the communication lines open. Most times the Committee Chair might send an email back as a measure of thanks as well.
  • Patience. Some Councillors on the Committees have the tendency to go off track when asking questions and I have had it a few times. A good Committee Chair will pull the Councillor in question back into line when that happens. However, if not then ask the said Councillor what is the relevance of your question to my presentation. It will usually put them back on track.
  • Practice before hand and before the day of the Committee with family or friends.  An old technique that makes the big day easier.

 

I usually keep tabs on two Committees which are the Infrastructure Committee and the large Auckland Development Committee (so this is where you will often find me). While the next Auckland Development Committee is at 9:30am on February 13th and I will be present to observe proceedings, I will not be presenting this time around having presented at the last one in November last year. That said if I am presenting I usually give about two weeks notice here on the blog when I do and what on.

 

Observing Proceedings at Committees

 

Readers of the blog will often hear me state I am at Council or a Committee ‘observing proceedings.‘ It means I will be at that particular Committee Meeting either at the media table (if it is quiet) or in the gallery both literally observing what is going on in the Committee as well as running my live Tweet service on anything major coming up.

For those displaying an interest or want to know what their Council actually gets up to then if you can spare half a day to a full day show up to a Committee meeting and just observe what goes on through the day. It might be boring for some (and it does get boring when Councillors go off course) but it is often the best education tool I can think of for the public in learning what their Council gets up to. Observing proceedings also gives two other valuable tools as well for those wanting to actively participate more than casting a vote every three years and reading what someone wrote in a particular newspaper. The first tool that you get an idea what the Committee debates on when you wish to give a presentation (forearmed is fore-warned (or the other way around)). The second one is networking with the Councillors, Local Board members, other members of the public, the CCOs and so on.

Over the last four years I have developed networks through attending Committees (whether observing or presenting) with Councillors, Local Board members, other members of the public, the CCOs and so on and nurture those networks as I would nurture my vegetable garden (odd analogy I know).  Those networks are fundamental to the existence of this blog as well as the advocating on issues usually dealing with Southern Auckland my home. In the same regard the networks have allowed me to help others or have robust debates outside of Council – as I am doing at the moment in assisting with Unitary Plan submissions and vice versa in return when I need help.

 

Building and nurturing your new-found networks through more active participation of Auckland’s governance gives you better tools when it comes to the time you want to do your part in actively influencing Council policy. And the more people who do that the more healthy our local democracy is – which prevents the sorry situation played out in the mainstream media when the Unitary Plan was first release early last year.

 

Forming Groups and Blogging

 

Going at it alone when actively participating in Auckland’s governance is daunting. Thus I recommend joining a Ratepayers Association (contact your Local Board as they should know the details of the local ones)  if not forming a group (whether small or large) of your own.  The two immediate benefits is shared knowledge when bouncing ideas and distributing the load especially when researching or submission writing. I’ll leave it to you on what you do on that particular frong as there is no universal way in setting this about.

 

Blogs. In this digital age blogs and Twitter (Facebook not so much at the moment) are commonly used to run commentary, post photos, inform and run debates – all things Talking Auckland does. And like Talking Auckland it can be accessed anywhere in the world either on PC, Apple, tablets or smartphones for your ease of reading.

If you are not up for writing a blog then I point out these three blogs for more well-rounded (though we all have bias)  blogs that do focus on Auckland issues:

These blogs often have links to other blogs which are useful for kick starting any research you might want to do towards Auckland issues.

Note: In the past I would have linked Whale Oil for a Centre Right commentary perspective on Auckland issues as there were some good guest posts on there. However, owing to recent events and the vitriol of quite a lot of comments on that blog (there are a few good ones still) I would not recommend it any more. Look Mayor Len Brown might not be the flavour of the month at the moment but readily calling him two words I wont repeat let alone even under censor here constantly shows the intelligence of those commenters – which is not very high when we are in a more civilised age.

 

In a “post-graduate” Civics post (Civics Honours 601) I will look at blogging options for those who want to set up a blog. 

 

This brings me to the end of the Civic series on how to interact more actively with your Auckland Council. What I have written is by no means exhaustive and everyone will have different experiences when actively participating in the governance of YOUR Auckland. That said participation is too low and apathy is too high and that needs to change. From what I have seen that apathy owes its existence to lack of knowledge on how Council works and how one interacts with it outside of your vote being cast. These Civic posts I hope take an edge off that apathy and get more people more engaged as the more engaged we are the more healthy our democracy is. Plus it would be nice to see some new faces in the gallery and presenting as I am sure the Auckland Development Committee is getting a tad bored seeing my mug half the time :- P (kidding). Still some new faces would be good.

 

And if you wonder whether Council both listens and listens rather than not at all (so stonewalling) I leave the link to this post on what happens when Council listens AND listens:

Developing a 21st Century Auckland Presentation – The Results

 

The Council How to Give Feedback Links: